Peach Nehi floats are the icon of Iconium, Mo.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
ICONIUM, Mo. (AP) — Take a right just past the Toadsuck Grill coming into this little town and you’ll drive right into the frame of a vintage photograph.
A small-town general store sits at the end of the block. Single gas pump out front, awning reaching to the street, groceries, work gloves and cold soda pop.
Time it right and maybe an old dog will be asleep on the porch.
This is Scott’s Iconium Store, and it’s been around since the 1880s in this town about a hundred miles southeast of Kansas City, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/180HX3r) reports. New owners took over earlier this year. No, his name isn’t Sam. Or Ike. You’re pushing.
But Shannon Tucker and his wife, Nikki, did “audition” a year before the couple who ran the place for more than three decades would sell it to them. They refused to turn it over to just anyone.
So what is it about this old store? Why is it still going when most like it crumbled to the ground a long time ago as America raced past to get to fancy places with shopping carts and automatic doors?
Well, it sure isn’t the Iconium population, because 35 won’t cut it.
But serving a thousand Peach Nehi ice cream floats in a single day, now that will keep the doors open.
Some of you are going — thousand?
The rest are going — Peach Nehi ?
Yes and yes.
Here’s the deal: Ask any Boy Scout in the area under 50 or Scout leader under 75 about a Peach Nehi float. Then wait for the smile.
“That little store down in Iconium,” they’ll say.
For decades, Scouts have hiked the mile or so from the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation to the store, which sits just past the new fire station the town built when the old one burned down last year.
They come for the famous float. It’s practically a merit badge. On weekends, hundreds of Scouts, parents and siblings — at times more than a thousand — gather at Scott’s store for food and ice cream.
“They said I had to get a Peach Nehi float,” Aidan Patton, an 11-year-old Scout from Kansas City, said as he slurped away last week outside the crowded store. “Glad they did. It’s great!”
The store will serve up 20,000 peach floats over a summer. At $2.50 a pop.
Shannon Tucker, the new owner, pulled open the door of the big wooden refrigerator built in 1943. Inside are rows of gallons of soft-serve vanilla ice cream.
“It’s nothing to go through a hundred of these in a day,” he said.
And to think it all started from futility. On a hot summer day back in the 1970s, then-store proprietor Ginger Scott, tired of looking at some dust-covered Peach Nehi a distributor had left her, handed two cans to a couple of Scouts eating vanilla ice cream out on the stoop.
One poured his on the ice cream.
“He loved it and told his friends,” Scott said. “It went from there.”
Today, Scott’s Iconium Store, which derives about half its business from the Scout camp, is, according to the business’s website, one of the largest sellers of Peach Nehi west of the Mississippi. The store also sells the drink online. At any given time, eight to 10 pallets of 12-packs sit on the concrete floor of a shed out back.
Most grocery stores around Kansas City don’t carry it, and Tucker is guarded about how he manages to get so much of the somewhat obscure beverage. Sort of like he’s part of the Peach Nehi cartel.
All he would say is that the shipments don’t come from anywhere around here.
“I learned from the former owners to keep that part quiet,” he said.
Nobody can remember when the store wasn’t there.
It long predates the Scout camp, which opened in 1929. Ginger Scott and her husband, Wayne, ran the place for 35 years until they sold it this year. His parents ran it before that, buying it when he was 3.
“I pretty much grew up on these floors,” said Wayne Scott, 69.
It wasn’t exactly A&P on coupon day. To make ends meet, he farmed and baled hay for himself and other farmers in the county.
“Ginger was here every day for 35 years,” Wayne said. “That’s why we can’t go anywhere without somebody recognizing her.”
But the store got to be too much. The Scotts insisted, though, that it go to somebody who would love the store and take care of it — it’s like they were finding a home for the family dog. A couple of early candidates didn’t pass the test.
That’s when they went to Shannon Tucker, whom they knew from camp. But he was married, living in Kansas City and running his own computer business. His wife, Nikki, worked at a veterinary clinic, and they had a newly adopted baby.
They wouldn’t just pack up and leave the big city for a town of 35. Would they?
“I came home from work one day and Shannon asked me what I would think about moving to a small town and running a country store,” said Nikki Tucker, 35. “I told him, ‘Yeah, I could do that.’
“He said, ‘Good. We’ve got an interview Thursday.”’
The Tuckers ran the place a year before the Scotts agreed to sell to them in February.
The store, which provides first jobs for many teens in the area, has about 65 Scouting days a year. The rest of the business comes from selling groceries, hardware and beer to locals. Shannon Tucker repairs computers in the back. Locals gather for coffee, and the Tuckers also run a laundromat across the street.
Is life perfect? No. Nikki Tucker says she misses friends in the city and she can’t buy shoes anywhere close. And the other day, a guy pulled in on a combine and took all their gas.
“But my job is 15 feet from home,” she said. “We spend a lot of time with our son now. We couldn’t do that in the city.
“And I’m learning about life in a small town. I’m learning to wave at everyone.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com
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